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Prague — The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is moving to take full advantage of the recent liberalization of press restrictions in Burma.
At its regular monthly meeting, the board approved a resolution offered by Gov. Michael Meehan that seeks new coordination among the BBG, the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) to build on recent breakthroughs to raise the profile of U.S. international broadcasting in the South Asian nation.
VOA Director David Ensor recently signed an agreement that would bring VOA English teaching programs to Burmese state radio. In addition, journalists from both VOA and RFA have been given enhanced access to Burma in recent months.
Under the resolution, the BBG, VOA and RFA would communicate with the Department of State and the Congress on its plans, including the possibility of establishing offices in Burma.
The board, holding its annual meeting at the headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), also met with Czech Republic officials, RFE/RL staff and held an open town hall meeting. Several board members attended the meeting via remote access.
The board passed a resolution calling for the development of a broader and more transparent policy to control spending on government-sponsored conferences and travel. The board’s governance committee was asked to develop the new policy for consideration in July.
Also during the session, the board approved a resolution honoring S. Enders Wimbush for his service on the board. Wimbush, who served as Director of Radio Liberty from 1987-93, was named to the board by President Obama in 2010.
The board unanimously approved a resolution establishing ground rules pursuant to which members of the BBG board agree to keep information regarding deliberations on budgetary and legislative matters confidential, with the level of confidentiality of legislative proposals to be determined by the current head of the board. The BBG Governance Committee will consider other categories of information that may become subject to the nondisclosure ground rules.
Noting numerous reminders of the risks BBG journalists face when reporting on regions in conflict or transition, Alternate Presiding Governor Dennis Mulhaupt denounced the arrests, threats, legal harassment and interference that have been endured by reporters at an accelerated pace in recent months.
“I want to join the many voices that have spoken out against these arrests, threats, legal harassment and interference. We urge officials and local authorities to ensure the safety of all journalists and punish those that misuse authority, threaten or harm reporters or their families,” Mulhaupt said.
The board heard reports from the International Broadcasting Bureau Director and other BBG broadcast executives regarding agency activities and programming coverage.
Highlights included the work of VOA’s Cairo bureau chief, Elizabeth Arrott, who managed to get into Syria in early May to produce a series of radio, TV and Internet reports on anti-government demonstrations that have spread into neighboring Lebanon. A sample of VOA’s reporting on Syria can be seen here.
Minutes of the BBG Meeting of April 20, 2012
Resolution Regarding Establishing a Presence for U. S. International Broadcasting in Burma
Policy Regarding Non-Disclosure of Deliberative Information
Resolution Honoring Former BBG Governor Enders Wimbush
Resolution Regarding Senator Coburn’s Amendment to Limit Spending on Government-Sponsored Conferences and Travel
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The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international broadcasting, whose mission is inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. BBG broadcasts reach an audience of 187 million in 100 countries. BBG networks include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí).